WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY

GRENELL & KURTI?: Kosovo PM Albin Kurti didn’t elaborate on why he didn’t meet the U.S. Presidential Envoy for the Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue Richard Grenell at the Munich Security Conference. He did note, “I never had so many meetings with international diplomats and politicians within two days of the last weekend and I returned to Kosovo late on Sunday and here we are today celebrating 12th anniversary of the Independence…During international conferences we are discussing with our friends and allies with those who helped us and we are working patiently to explain our position and build bridges which are necessary for our joint success.”

FROM OREGON TO KOSOVO: The Oregon National Guard is preparing for deployment to NATO’s Kosovo Force (KFOR) Mission. Oregon-based KTVZ writes, “During this process, members of the unit are being split into two different teams. One team’s training mirrors the mission they will have patrolling what is known as Kosovo’s Administrative Boundary Line that separates Kosovo from Serbia. There, teams set up entry control points and ensure that there is safety and security as well as freedom of movement for the citizens of Kosovo. The second team is called a Liaison Monitoring Team. This team will do what are called ‘pulse patrols.’ These patrols go from location to location to interact with the residents of Kosovo and help with any humanitarian needs.”

“GOODBYE BIH, WELCOME RSEXIT”: Bosnian Serb Member of the Presidency Milorad Dodik addressed the Republika Srpska Assembly starting with “Goodbye BiH, welcome RSExit” before threatening secession again throughout his address.

INZKO RESPONDS: Meanwhile, High Representative Valentin Inzko told N1, “Secession would cross the red line. Entity borders are no more than the lines between counties in Croatia and provinces in Germany. All that is part of Bosnia which continued its territorial sovereignty and we mustn’t forget that Bosnia was accepted into the UN as a united country in 1992, together with Slovenia and Croatia. They were all accepted on the same day and that the backbone and foundation of Bosnia. Only the internal borders were changed by the Dayton Accords.”

EUFOR ON ALERT: The European Union Force in BiH (EUFOR) is closely monitoring the political developments in BiH. However, EFUOR remained optimistic in a statement, “The EUFOR mandate under the General Framework Agreement for Peace implies support for a secure and stable environment in Bosnia-Herzegovina. So far, these political developments have not affected a safe and stable environment.”

RUSSIA-SERBIA DEFENSE: Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu on Monday visited his Serbian counterpart Aleksandar Vulin in Belgrade. Shoigu invited Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Serbian troops to the May 9th celebrations to mark victory in World War II. Meanwhile, Vulin vowed to accept an invitation to the Moscow Conference on International Security, the Army Military and Technical Forum, and the International Army Games. Vulin’s aim for the International Army Games? To make the final of the tank biathlon, of course. He said, “I sincerely hope that our results in the Tank Biathlon will be better this year. Last time, we failed to get into the final but I hope that this year we will at least reach the final.”

TOGETHER FOR ALBANIA: The international community on Monday pledged 1.15 billion EUR for Albania, including 400 million EUR in EU contributions, after a devastating 6.4 magnitude earthquake on November 26, 2019 at the International Donors’ Conference in Brussels. The EU spearheaded the conference.

MONTENEGRO LEADS THE REGION: Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic met with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in Brussels on Monday. Djukanovic said they discussed the informal dinner for Western Balkan leaders hosted by President of the European Council Charles Michel and Montenegro’s continued leadership in the region.

CROATIAN DEFENSE: “The Ministry of Defence on Monday signed procurement agreements with 38 Croatian companies for military equipment and services valued at about €61 million or about €19 million more than in 2019. The agreements were signed by Minister Damir Krstičević who underscored that Croatian soldiers are entirely equipped with Croatian products and weapons and their participation in international missions and operations serve as an excellent reference in tenders that Croatia applies for on the global markets.” (Total Croatia News)

STOLTENBERG IN SKOPJE: NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg today will be in Skopje, N. Macedonia to visit PM Oliver Spasovski.

SERWER THE OPTIMIST: Johns Hopkins SAIS Professor Daniel Serwer tells Voice of America that in the first twelve years after Kosovo’s Declaration of Independence that “The leadership was elected in a free vote. The media in Kosovo are mostly free. The Constitutional Court constantly demonstrates its independence. The civil sector is developed, as is the opposition. The economy records a growth compared to the slower improvement in the European Union.”

HOW WAS IT CELEBRATED?: Kosovo PM Albin Kurti and Speaker of Parliament Vjosa Osmani visited the grave of Kosovo’s first president, Ibrahim Rugova. They also visited Kosovo Security Force troops with President Hashim Thaci.

CHURCH PROTESTS: Protests by the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro continued over the weekend with protests in the tens of thousands. Meanwhile, the Serbian American Leadership Conference joined a 3 mile march from St. Sava Serbian Orthodox Church to St. Elijah Orthodox Church in Merrillville, Indiana, in support of Montenegrin Serbs.

GREEN ENERGY: Slovenian energy company Resalta received a 12m EUR loan from the European Investment Bank (EIB) for projects in Slovenia, Croatia, Bulgaria, and Serbia.

SHOW ME THE MONEY: “Average monthly take-home pay in Slovenia increased last year by 3.7% in nominal terms and by 2.1% in real terms to EUR 1,133.50, fresh data from the Statistics Office show. Average gross monthly pay for 2019 amounted to EUR 1,753.84, up 4.3% in nominal terms and up 2.7% in real terms compared to average monthly earnings in 2018.” (Total Slovenia News)

IN OTHER NEWS

CULTURE: “Dinner in the Dark: An Unforgettable Ljubljana Dining Experience” by Denise Rejec in Total Slovenia News

CULTURE: “Spreading the Croatian language in the UK for over two decades” in Croatia Week

SPORT: “Serbia coach Igor Kokoskov talked about Denver Nuggets coach Mike Malone potentially joining the national team’s staff in the future. Kokoskov said that it was Malone who offered to become a part of the team during a congratulatory phone call after he was named the new head coach of the ‘Orlovi.'” (Eurohoops)

SPORT: Meanwhile, Serbian point guard and captain Milos Teodosic could miss the first two Eurobasket qualifiers on February 21st and 23rd.

SPORT: “Turkish alpine skier saves life with heroic move in Slovenia” in Daily Sabah